Archive for Emerging Technologies from United Kingdom

Improve Your Inductive Reasoning Through Mind360

by on August 5, 2009 at 11:56 pm

LogoRightBeta I recently learned about this cool Israel-based company Mind360, which develops mind games and it’s not just for older folks with aging brains.

As you get older that it’s harder to find where you left your car keys, your brush, even your cup of coffee while you’re running around the house trying to get out in the morning?

The brain is a muscle – I learned a lot about how the brain tools and retrains itself after my grandfather had a stroke. (more…)

European Entrepreneurs Come to Life with their Latest Creations

by on August 1, 2009 at 8:14 am

Seedcamp jpeg I spent a day at London’s Seedcamp earlier this month, where I met with a number of England and France-based startups, some of which have a presence in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

Seedcamp’s goal is to provide a catalyst for the next generation of great European entrepreneurs and help them take risks, think big, and succeed.

Participating in Seedcamp gives startups enormous validation and access to a world-class network of advisors, which helps entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business, plus a direct route to seed and venture capital. (more…)

Protecting People Against Surveillance & Fraud

by on August 1, 2009 at 8:10 am

During my recent trip to Cambridge, I ran across Steven Murdoch, who is a post-doctoral researcher and developer at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and is working on the Tor Project, which is free software and an open network built to help protect people against surveillance.


The Tor Project is being used today by human rights workers, journalists, bloggers, law enforcement, and ordinary people.

Tor also helps resist censorship, allowing people to access websites which are being blocked, and protect themselves when publishing sensitive material. I am working on how to improve the performance and usability of the Tor.

Another project Steven has been working on is around banking security.

Since 2006, the UK has moved to using smartcards for credit and debit cards — so called Chip & PIN. While in many ways this is an improvement of security over the older system, there are a growing number of fraud victims who are not being refunded by their bank.

The banks claim that Chip & PIN is secure, and so anyone who states that they are the victim of card fraud is either mistaken, lying, or has been negligent.

Steven’s research evaluates the security of the Chip & PIN system and, along with a team, they have been able to show that there are numerous security vulnerabilities which can (and sometimes have) been exploited by fraudsters.

Further information on the banking security work can be found here.

BaseKit – Dynamic web dev, no programming required

by on July 24, 2009 at 10:23 am

This is a repost from TechCrunch Europe

BaseKit is an automatic site builder for websites – No XHTML/CSS, PHP, Perl, or other programming languages required. BaseKit lets web designers build websites quickly and easily. It differs from other similar services by allowing users to implement functional, interactive and dynamic elements without coding. It doesn’t simply build a static site like the web site builders of a decade past. With BaseKit, it allows more people to build complex and dynamic sites without resorting to expensive web developers or complex coding.

However, like many start-ups, the revenue model needs tweaking. Founder Simon Best’s pause when I asked what his revenue model was priceless. According to Simon, if a web designer uses BaseKit to do the web site for a small business than the small business owner pays. But, wouldn’t this simply be the web designer’s fee? It wasn’t clear, at least to me, what the revenue model was. There’s potential, of course, but perhaps current open source solutions are sufficient. I also wonder how this substantially differs from Weebly or tons of other similar applications, besides a few more bells and whistles. Even in the good ol’ days of GeoCities (remember them?), there was an automatic site-builder feature, so this isn’t very different. On the other hand, development must continue because certainly who wants amateur sites in 2009 to look like they were built in 1999?

Toward the era of (printed?) sentient things…

by on July 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm

When I wrote Smart Mobs in 2001 and launched the blog with the book in 2002, I made a number of forecasts about the convergence of the mobile phone, the personal computer, and the Internet. Some of these forecasts, particularly in regard to the use of mobile communications to organize political demonstrations, were accurate. Some of them haven’t happened yet. Some of them might not happen at all. I looked back at Smartmobs Revisited when I spoke at Mobile Monday Amsterdam in June, 2009. And I recently blogged about some reasons why the mobile Web hasn’t developed as rapidly as the tethered web did. Another 2001-2 forecast that has not come to pass by 2009 was what I called “the era of sentient things:”

Different lines of research and development that have progressed slowly for decades are accelerating now because sufficient computation and communication capabilities recently became affordable. These projects originated in different fields but are converging on the same boundary between artificial and natural worlds. The vectors of this research include:

* Information in places: media linked to location.
* Smart rooms: environments that sense inhabitants and respond to them.
* Digital cities: adding information capabilities to urban places.
* Sentient objects: adding information and communication to physical objects.
* Tangible bits: manipulating the virtual world by manipulating physical objects.
* Wearable computers: sensing, computing, communicating gear worn as clothing.

Information and communication technologies are invading the physical world, a trend that hasn’t even begun to climb the hockey stick growth curve. Shards of sentient silicon will be inside boxtops and dashboards, pens, street corners, bus stops, money, most things that are manufactured or built, within the next ten years. These technologies are “sentient” not because embedded chips can reason, but because they can sense, receive, store, and transmit information. Some of these cheap chips sense where they are: the cost of a global positioning system chip capable of tracking its location via satellite to accuracy of ten to fifteen meters is around $15 and dropping.

Watch smart mobs emerge when millions of people use location-aware mobile communication devices in computation-pervaded environments. Things we hold in our hands are already speaking to things in the world. Using our telephones as remote controls is only the beginning. At the same time that the environment is growing more sentient, the device in your hand is evolving from portable to wearable. A new media sphere is emerging from this process, one that could become at least as influential, lucrative, and ubiquitous as previous media spheres opened by print, telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, and the wired Internet.

But…not yet. However, I’ve seen a couple of recent indicators that this forecast might have been more premature than totally off the mark. First, one of the most reliable early indicators I turn to all the time, one of the few RSS feeds that I rarely miss scanning at least once a day, ReadWriteWeb, recently noted that IBM might be getting into the act:

In the Web world, you know that a trend has major traction when IBM is all over it. Like any large Internet company, Big Blue is careful about which trends it latches onto. It was a good couple of years before they were spotted at the Web 2.0 conference, for example. However in the case of Internet of Things, IBM is proving itself to be an unusually early adopter.

I recently spoke to Andy Stanford-Clark, a Master Inventor and Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Yesterday we wrote about how Stanford-Clark has hooked his house up to Twitter. Today we delve more into what his employer, IBM, is doing with the Internet of Things.

IBM is involved in some very interesting projects at the intersection of two big trends we’ve been tracking in 2009: The Real-time Web and Internet of Things. They have a website devoted to this topic, called A Smarter Planet. As the name implies, it focuses on environmental matters such as energy and food systems. Sensors, RFID tags and real-time messaging software are major parts of IBM’s smarter planet strategy. The catchcry for the site – Instrumented, Interconnected, and Intelligent – is about outfitting the world with sensors and hooking them to the Internet to apply the ’smarts.’

My spider-sense might not have tingled as strongly at this tidbit about IBM if I had not met Dr. Kate Stone in Cambridge, UK, a few weeks ago. Although the Travelling Geeks had seen dozens of remarkable startups in London and in Cambridge, the hint of what-might-be-news came when Dr. Stone approached me after a series of pitches and told me about Novalia, a company that is combining current printing techniques, electroconductive ink, and ultra-thin control units to make paper an interactive medium, capable of sensing visual, auditory, or touch inputs, connecting to the Web, displaying audiovisual information. At least in theory. I didn’t see any prototypes. But if you put together the clues from Novalia’s website with the more concrete news from IBM, it seems like the era of sentient things might still be ahead of us – and maybe not too far:

Control module
We have developed and supply a ‘printed electronics control module’; this self contained unit consists of a power source, integrated circuit (I/O control and interaction flow), and sound transducer.

The module is very simple to integrate with the printed item, in fact it’s almost as easy as putting a stamp on an envelope (but for now it’s not quite as thin).

The integration of the module and the conductive inks enables the printed item and the user to communicate through the senses of touch, sightand sound.

On the London Tech Scene

by on July 22, 2009 at 4:12 am

Ayelet Noff of Blonde 2.0 Sarah Lacy and I at the TechCrunch Europa Awards in London earlier this month on the UK tech scene. Damn fly……

What’s After MoshiMonsters and WeeWorld? MovieStorm and Stupeflix. #TG2009

by on July 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The real-time web. The semantic web. Augmented reality. It’s all happening right now. And for most Boomers not in the tech world, most of these new technologies will pass us by. But not so our progeny.

Taylor, my 12 year old daughter, like your children, has been raised on Nintendo, creating virtual worlds to pass time in the car. Today there are next generation online worlds like WeeWorld and MoshiMonsters from MindCandy, that are a new breed of stimulating, mentally challenging game environments. And as our kids grow up, they will be creating their own 3D movies with MovieStorm and promulgating their customized online videos with Stupeflix.(yeah, I know, bad name to translate from French into English)

These four companies were just a few of the extraordinary organizations with whom I met during last week’s Traveling Geeks tour of London and Cambridge.

Jeff Zie, Founder, Movie Storm - Cambridge, England

Jeff Zie, Founder, Movie Storm – Cambridge, England

I have a rule with Taylor that she can spend as much time online as she’d like, as long as 50% of her time is focused on content creation, rather than content consumption. After growing up steeped in the dimensionality of computer games, I hardly think she’ll be satisfied with photo montages set to music. She’s on her second Flip Video camera and prefers to create her own movies.

Tay and Maddie Making a Movie "The RatSkat"

Tay and Maddie Making a Movie "The RatSkat"

With the advent of MovieStorm, her generation won’t be satisfied with anything less than the ability to generate 3D animated movies like this.

MovieStorm 3D Room

MovieStorm 3D Room

Stupeflix was another impressive player on our trip, allowing one to go beyond creating a simple slide shows set to music ala Animoto. Instead Stupeflix  leverages the beauty of XML to allow you to create a standard templated video that can pull files into it to mass customize as many versions of the video as you need.

One application Nicolas Steegmann demoed at the Seedcamp event was a weather video that showed a US map, but filled in the local weather from a feed. Here’s a great article from BoxofTricks on how to use Stupeflix.

If these companies seem “far out,” they are not. They really get where the online users are going. The only question is will they able to reach scale and drive profits fast enough? The Mattels of the world should be investing in them now, because they are the future.

Coming up on DishyMix is my interview with Jack Lang, Cambridge Angel investor who has put money into MovieStorm.

Jack Lang, EIR, Judge School of Business, University of Cambridge with Susan Bratton, Host of DishyMix

Jack Lang, EIR, Judge School of Business, University of Cambridge with Susan Bratton, Host of DishyMix

Image representing Stupeflix as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Seedcamp Details for Stupeflix:

Twitter: @stupeflix



Company Description
Stupeflix is a web service aimed at people and companies that want to generate massive amounts of videos automatically from their pictures, music and videos.
It comes as a fully customizable REST API and an embeddable online video editor.
Stupeflix uses unique technologies allowing faster than real time video rendering, as well as the generation of 10,000’s videos a day using one server only.
The public API that Stupeflix offers to developers is pretty much unique in the flexibility and level of control it allows.

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If CardScan, CaptureTalk and MagicSolver Had a Baby…

by on July 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm
Pokens, CardScan and My Business Card Dilemma

Pokens, CardScan and My Business Card Dilemma

I returned from the Traveling Geeks trip to London and Cambridge with over 100 business cards and more emails streaming in with contact information. I spent a couple hours scanning the cards into my CardScan scanner. If my computer hadn’t needed a hard restart, I’d still have that data, but I had to reboot and lost everything! That’s not the worst, as if a couple hours of tedious work wasted wasn’t enough, even when I do rescan them, I must laboriously go to LinkedIn and Facebook and “friend” each person. This could take me another 2-3 hours. I just can’t take it anymore.

Here’s what I want.

I meet you. You have a simple business card you carry with you that I take a photo of with my iPhone. It uses mobile OCR technology to automatically add you into my Apple Address Book (a piece of crap that thing, but Apple and databases is a whole other bitch session) which backs up virtually to my MobileMe account.

Next, this ap you are creating for me (thank you so very much!)  takes all the new contacts and automatically friends them on Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and anyplace else I’ve selected in my settings.

Then it tags each person in my Trackur online reputation monitoring (like Google Alerts but better) account so I can see if there’s anything interesting about them anytime I communicate with them on any of the social services, including surfacing their latest online breadcrumbs in my Apple Mail as I’m writing to them.

My friend, CC Chapman, bought me two Pokens to play with. These are little automatic data exchangers that you can take to events and exchange info with friends, come back and upload via USB to your computer. But nobody has little Pokens. Everybody has a mobile phone!

Poken and CC Chapman
Image by SusanBratton via Flickr

So, if CardScan and CaputuraTalk and MagicSolver had a baby, they could create what I need. (I met Iansyst (CapturaTalk’s maker) and MagicSolver in Cambridge – they are part of the tech start up world in England.

CardScan has the business card OCR technology. CapturaTalk has mobile OCR technology. MagicSolver uses neural networks and vision technologies to solve Sudoku puzzles by taking a picture of the puzzle with your phone. Surely these companies can come together to solve the massive problem we all have keeping track of our contacts and connecting with them in social nets?

Emmanuel Carraud, Founder, at Cambridge Entrepreneur's Traveling Geek Event

Emmanuel Carraud, Founder, at Cambridge Entrepreneur's Traveling Geek Event

What do you say Mark Ketchum of Newell Rubbermaid (owners of Cardscan)? The last CEO was ousted after 10 bad quarters. You are in charge of the turn around. The CardScan as a stand alone item just doesn’t cut it. Why don’t you aquire some of these amazing technology companies and get with the program? We want to bridge from handing out business cards to digitally exchanging information that automatically syncs with our socnets.

It’s time for a new ap! And don’t forget Symbian and Nokia – the iPhone is still just a small part of the global business grist.

Image representing Symbian as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
CapturaTalk Cambridge England

CapturaTalk Cambridge England

From Iansyst:

Please find below details about our mobile OCR and text-to-speech solution for people with learning difficulties. Please find below a link to the BBC website where you can see a clip about capturatalk: What is Capturatalk? CapturaTalk is an innovative software package designed to operate on a range of Windows Mobile phones to access information and to support anytime anywhere learning. This is ideal for people who require literacy support for disabilities such as dyslexia, or for those learning English.

Capturatalk v2 uses proven leading technology to deliver the following quality features:

·Scan and recognise text using Abbyy Mobile OCR.

·Deliver text-to-speech with natural-sounding voices by Acapela.

·Understand what words mean using the concise Oxford English Dictionary.

·Capturatalk v2 supports mobile learning by reading out text from most applications on your Windows Mobile Device including:

·Email ·Tasks ·Reminders ·Appointments ·Pocket Word ·Notes ·Pocket Internet Explorer

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“Because Content is the new Electricity, Open Source is the new Power Grid & the UK is the place to build it!,” John Newton, Alfresco #WDYDWYD #TG2009

by on July 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm

John Newton, Chairman and CEO of Alfresco at Accel Partners London Traveling Geeks meeting.

John Newton, Chairman and CEO of Alfresco

John Newton, Chairman and CEO of Alfresco

My Traveling Geeks Meme: WDYDWYD? What is it?

Image representing Alfresco as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
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Will BT let JP create the first open network operator? One scenario for the mobile Web

by on July 14, 2009 at 11:21 pm

The Web exists because Tim Berners-Lee didn’t require any network operator to rewire its central switch. Google exists because nobody has to ask permission to create a new way to use the Web. These affordances for innovation are no accident: Sir Tim could give away the Web and Larry and Sergey could make billions of dollars for themselves because the architects of the internet’s original protocols were wise enough to reserve innovation for the edges, not the center of the network. The authors of what has become known as the internet’s realized that control of the network – technical, economic, political – could be radically decentralized, and that by enabling anyone who played by the TCP/IP rules to connect anything they wanted to the network, future media that they didn’t even dream about in the olden days would one day become possible. So the Web, cyberculture, the dot com economy, digital media, the refashioning of global economic production by digital networks, grew extremely rapidly.

The merger of the mobile phone and the internet has not grown anywhere nearly as rapidly as the web precisely because there is someone you have to ask for permission in the mobile world – the network operators. And network operators evolved from regulated monopoly telephony providers, who have done their best to prevent, rather than to facilitate, an internet-like ecology of small and large businesses, heterogeneous media, decentralized control, and a rising economic tide that lifts small boats and threatens huge ships that take a long time to turn. We have yet to see an owner of significant telecommunications network open their network by providing an open application programming interface (api)

Which brings us to JP Rangaswami:

JP Rangaswami talks to the travelling geeks

JP Rangaswami talks to the travelling geeks

(Source: JD Lasica)

JD Lasica’s photo was taken atop BT Tower in London, when British Telecom’s CIO of Global Services invited the Travelling Geeks to dinner in a private, revolving dining room in BT’s high-security antenna tower, a landmark on the London skyline I’ve often wondered about. How that dinner came to be is a story of how life happens online these days. A link from another blog brought me to JP’s blog, Confused of Calcutta, years ago; I read it via RSS regularly, and when I saw that the blogger was on Twitter, I started following him. When JP used, it tweeted what he was listening to. I couldn’t help noticing that he listened to a fair amount of Grateful Dead music. So I started to correspond with him. When he visited the San Francisco Bay Area, he invited me (via Facebook) to join him for dinner. He had more than a few interesting things to say about the way media infrastructure might evolve in the future. So when I knew we were going to London, I introduced the Travelling Geeks to JP. He, in turn, invited us to dinner. It dawned on me that my blogger thinker Deadhead social media acquaintance wielded some clout at BT when we were greeted for dinner by the CEO of British Telecom.

It was probably JP’s idea to seat me next to Ted Griggs, the founder of Ribbit, a company JP had acquired. The seating was probably no accident. Here’s Ribbit’s elevator pitch. (Another way of describing Ribbit’s product, Griggs told me, as London revolved below us, would be “open API’s for [now BT’s] networks.”)

I’ve been writing about the future of digital media for a while now, and I think I’ve developed a pretty good spidey-sense for something that could change everything. When I met the people JP had collected and saw what they were doing (during a morning of demos after our dinner), I was reminded of nothing so much as the time I got to know Bob Taylor at Xerox PARC and started to realize that what they were doing on Palo Alto’s Coyote Hill Road with personal computers, networks, graphical user interfaces way back in the 1970s was going to be the foundation of the 21st centuries fundamental structuring technologies.

But Xerox management, of course, thought they were in the copier business and failed to take advantage of the fact that their research arm invented the GUI, the Ethernet, and the laser printer.

Will BT management realize that they aren’t in the telephone network operator business, and that someone in their midst has invited not only their future, but everyone else’s? Stay tuned.

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