Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Google’s New ‘Our Mobile Planet’ Free Tool Offers A Deep Dive On Smartphone Analysis And Data

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:37 AM PDT

Our Mobile Planet-2

Google is rolling out a new data and analysis tool, called Our Mobile Planet, which gives anyone access to data and research on smartphone usage. The site features an interactive tool that anyone can use to create custom charts from data from the Google’s "Global Mobile Research: The Smartphone User & The Mobile Marketer" report conducted earlier this year (you can read more about the data here). OurMobilePlanet provides deep dives into consumer search, video, social and email behavior, as well as mobile research and purchase intentions.

You can choose from the type of smartphone data you want view, including penetration of consumer adoption of smartphones, behavior (why and how consumers are using these devices), activities (what consumers are doing on smartphones), commerce (purchasing behavior on smartphones) and advertising (consumer engagement with mobile advertising).

Each of these data sets has subsets so you can really drill down on specific research. For example, under commerce, you can choose mobile commerce, research and purchase by vertical and statements. Under each of those, you can choose a number of data points including purchases by type of payment, NFC, etc.

You can then select to filter the data by country, and Google offers data from 30 different countries worldwide. You can add other filters to the chart such as age, gender and mobile internet usage. And you can export the chart into a JPG, CSV or XLS file.

Clearly the platform provides a massive amount of data, and you can get information as simple as smartphone penetration in a certain country to more in-depth analysis like how many consumers in the country visit a store after doing a local search on their smartphone.

Google says this is the first time a study this extensive has been made available for free. And obviously anyone can use Our Mobile Planet.



Google Earth Tops 1 Billion Downloads Since Launch

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:28 AM PDT

google-earth

According to the official Google Blog, Google Earth downloads have topped 1 billion since it’s 2005 launch. Yes, 1 billion.

After acquiring Keyhole, Inc in 2005, Google was able to launch Google Earth and “never imagined our geospatial technology would be used by people in so many unexpected ways,” writes Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering for Google Earth and Maps. To celebrate, Google is aggregating all of the interesting ways people across the globe have used Google Earth and posting them on www.OneWorldManyStories.com.



Coming Soon To A Store Near You: Tagtile, A Square-Like Mobile Loyalty Service

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:17 AM PDT

tagtile-rendering

Tagtile is a new company (and recent TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley participant), which is using the Square model involving free hardware to address the issues surrounding customer loyalty, management and rewards for brick-and-mortar merchants.

Like mobile payments service Square, which uses a free hardware dongle that attaches to a mobile phone, Tagltile also provides its merchants with a free hardware device – in this case, a white cube for customers to tap with their phone at checkout.

The cube is meant to serve as a stopgap solution until NFC (near field communication) really takes off in mobile. “In spite of all its promise,” explains Tagtile Co-founder and CEO Abheek Anand, “NFC has always been a technology that’s 3 years away…We want to focus on only one thing – changing consumer behavior.”

(Devices in stores – this is a thing now! See also: the iPod-based Perka, launched today). 

What Tagtile provides is a simple way for customers to register their visit to a participating merchant, in exchange for points, coupons, discounts or whatever other loyalty rewards the merchant wants to distribute. The customer simply launches an app on their smartphone (iPhone or Android, BlackBerry soon) and taps the cube at checkout to get the rewards. They can also check-in on Foursquare or Facebook via the app, or (soon) tweet about their visit.

The experience is very much like what an NFC-enabled solution would provide – it just doesn’t use NFC. Instead Tagtile leverages sensors common to mobile phones today to make the connection, but Anand doesn’t want to publicly discuss which sensors or how Tagtile is using them.

On the merchant side, the cube either plugs into a PC via USB to integrate with any existing point-of-sale system offering an SDK (software development kit). For those merchants without the USB option, Tagtile can plug directly into a wall outlet. In that case, the cube borrows the data connection on the user’s smartphone to send data back to Tagtile servers.

For consumers with privacy concerns, Tagtile is clear in that personally identifiable isn’t shared with merchants, only with Tagtile itself. Focused on the security of that data is Tagtile’s other founder, Soham Mazumdar, who spent six years at Google working on infrastructure and data mining for Google Search. Meanwhile, Anand previously worked in Product Management at Engine Yard, as an investor at Lightspeed Venture Partners, and as an early engineer at VMware.

Tagtile merchants can go beyond the basic “punch card” rewards system with service, getting access to something that’s more akin to a “Google analytics” for their store. Who shopped there, how often, when, etc. is displayed in a dashboard-like interface. Merchants can also narrowly target customers via campaigns – e.g. “everyone who hasn’t been back to the store in the past 2 months.” Tagtile serves as the middleman, delivering the message from the merchant to the shopper.

Currently, the company has 35 merchants across different verticals testing the service in San Francisco, New York, Florida, and the Maryland/New Jersey area. Tagtile is a few weeks away from closing its first seed round, expected at around $1 million. The round may also coincide with its public launch, also a month out.

In the meantime, interested merchants can sign up here.


Company: Tagtile
Website: tagtile.com

Tagtile helps local businesses identify, engage and increase repeat purchases from customers through a frictionless loyalty and direct marketing solution. The Tagtile product consists of a custom hardware device, the Tagtile Cube, that merchants place at their cash counter. Users record their transactions at these businesses by tapping their smartphone against the Tagtile Cube, and get rewarded for being a loyal customer. Merchants can access user information and purchase history through an online dashboard, and use this information to...

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Sony Wins The Internet Today With The PS3 Ad Spot Michael

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:06 AM PDT

sony

Love or hate gaming, this Sony advert properly captures the very essence of video games. It’s about the experiences. It’s about the memories. Video games allow a person to, even briefly, become someone else, and enter their life and see a different world. Link, Ghost, and Gordon Freeman all become part of a gamer’s narrative with just as much consequence as Tom Sawyer or The Hardy Boys.

Sure, this particular video spot is for Sony and the Playstation 3, but it portrays the vast draw to gaming in general. Good job, Sony. You won the Internet today.


Company: Sony
Website: sony.com
Launch Date: October 5, 2011
IPO: NYSE:SNE

Sony is one of the leading manufacturers of electronics, video, communications, video game consoles, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets.

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Bose’s Series 2 Bluetooth Headset Packs 2 Mics, Hefty Price Tag

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:55 AM PDT

bosebt2

Looks like Bose is taking another swing at phone accessories because the company has just revealed their new Series 2 Bluetooth headset.

So what exactly does Bose bring to the party this time? Aside from the basics, like A2DP streaming and multiple ear tips in the box, the Series 2 has a few new tricks up its sleeves.

The Series 2 packs a two-microphone configuration meant to reduce background noise, and Bose’s new Adaptive Audio Adjustment technology. Bose claims that thanks to AAA, the headset will be able to adjust its output in different environments. Taking a quiet call at a fancy restaurant would mean a lower volume level so as not to blow out your eardrum, while the Series 2 would crank up the sound while at a loud party.

Perhaps the best thing about the Bose Series 2 is that it finally comes in left and right ear versions. That’s right — their original model was specifically designed to go in a user’s right ear, so auditory lefties were forced to find an alternative.

At $149, its price eclipses a lot of its competition, but hey — what else is new for Bose? The big question is if the Series 2 will perform well enough to justify the price tag. The Series 2 headset is already live in Bose’s online store, and I’d expect to see it in certain brick-and-mortar retailers before too long.



Report: HP, Dell Ultrabooks On Tap For Late 2011, Early 2012 Release

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:44 AM PDT

acer_vs_samsung_ultrabooks_625px

Ultrabooks are set to light the notebook market ablaze, but the two largest PC makers are arriving fashionably late. A Digitimes report collaborates earlier rumors that HP and Dell do not plan on releasing ultrabooks anytime soon. This puts Acer, Asus, Toshiba and Lenovo in particularly prime positions to stake claim in what could become a pivotal market. But they better get while the getting is good. You can bet that HP and Dell are going to eventually bust through the ultrabook wall Kool-Aid man-style.

The Digitimes report puts HP releasing its first ultrabook at the end of 2012 while Dell will do so in the first quarter of 2012. Reportedly, Dell will use CES 2012 to announce its expected 14-inch model. HP will presumably announce additional models at CES, as well.

The delayed launch is rather smart. The first crop of ultrabooks hitting in the coming weeks are built on Intel’s current Sandy Bridge CPU architecture, which while plenty powerful, do not feature the advance power management found in the upcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs. HP and Dell are likely waiting Intel launches the new CPU platform later this year as well as watching the public’s reception of the first batch of ultrabooks. The average consumer should probably take the hint and wait as well.


Company: HP
Website:

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Company: Dell
Website: dell.com
Launch Date: October 5, 1984
IPO: Nasdaq:DELL

Dell develops, manufactures, and sells personal computers and other computer-related products including servers, data storage devices, network switches, software, computer peripherals and televisions.

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Global Ad Revenues From Social Networks To Reach $5.4B In 2011; $10B In 2013

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:35 AM PDT

Social Network

Ad revenue from social networks worldwide is expected to reach $5.54 billion this year, according to eMarketer estimates, and will double by 2013. eMarketer is taking into account a number of popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Half of this year’s ad spend on social networks, $2.74 billion, is coming from the US market. Unsurprisingly, the majority of this ad revenue is coming from Facebook, which is expected to pull in over $3.8 billion this year from advertising to its 800 million members.

Revenue is clearly growing, but eMarketer’s data shows that the fastest growth over the next few years will take place in ad spending outside the U.S. By 2013, non-US revenues will make up 51.9% of the total, which will hit $10 billion worldwide. In the US, social networks will make nearly $5 billion from ads that year.

Social network ad revenue grew 50% in 2010, and is expected to increase by 55.6% this year. But growth is expected to drop to 45% in 2012, and 25.2% in 2013.

We know that Twitter has been growing its ad revenue steadily, and should see even more growth once the network’s self-service product for advertisers debuts. For the first time, eMarketer actually forecasts ad revenues for professional social network LinkedIn, who has recently been rolling out a number of new, social (Facebook-like) ad formats.

eMarketer predicts LinkedIn will account for 3% of worldwide social network ad revenues this year, with $140.8 million. The site has more than tripled its ad dollars in two years, but eMarketer cations that growth is tapering off. Ad revenue is expected to grow by 79% in 2011, but will drop in its growth rate to 44% in 2012 (with $200 million in ad revenue) and 24.3% in 2013 (with $250 million in ad revenue).

Still, LinkedIn is seeing two members join each second, and has over 120 million members, so it is still a popular place for advertisers to reach consumers.

In terms of all digital ad spending, 8.8% of online ad dollars in the US and 6.9% worldwide will go to social networking sites this year. By 2013, social network ad revenues will make up 11.7% of all online ad spending in the US and 9.4% around the world.

Of course, one thing that this report does not factor in is brand new ad formats and how that could effect revenue in the next few years. For example, at TechCrunch Disrupt a few weeks ago, Facebook's Product Director for Ads Gokul Rajaram said that the network is thinking about developing an AdSense for Facebook advertisers.


Company: eMarketer
Website: emarketer.com
Launch Date: October 5, 1996

eMarketer aggregates digital marketing and media research, providing clients with reports, analysis, charts, articles, interviews, case studies, videos and more.

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Leaked T-Mobile Roadmap Promises Six New Devices On November 2

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:35 AM PDT

TmoRoadmap

It looks like Christmas may come early for T-Mobile customers. Internal documents show four device launches this month and twice as many in November, including the Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Plus tablet. What’s odd is that pieces of this roadmap seem dead-on, while others don’t make a whole lot of sense. So we’ll proceed with caution and figure it out together, shall we?

First on the list are three “October 19″ launches: the HTC “Ruby” (officially known as the HTC Amaze 4G), the Samsung “Hercules” (the Galaxy S II), and the Huawei “Wayne,” which you may recognize as the Huawei Sonic 4G Mobile Hotspot. The Hotspot is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll spend my words on the two beastly smartphones supposedly hitting shelves on the 19th.

To start, this is the most flawed part of the roadmap, as noted by its original poster TmoNews. Both the Amaze 4G and the Galaxy S II are slated for pre-order on October 10 and in-store releases on October 12. Though it’s odd, the incorrect dates probably have something to do with the fact that this roadmap is just a bit old, and probably not the most up-to-date version in T-Mobile’s system.

Moving along you’ll find the Samsung “Arnold,” not nearly a hot enough codename for the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which will launch on October 26. Specs on Apple’s least favorite “copycat” include a dual-core 1GHz processor, a 10.1-inch 1280×800 WXGA display, and a waist line of just 8.6mm.

The November 2 mega-launch day brings with it more seems pretty legit, since TmoNews found another internal T-Mo document (pictured at right) promising six launches on November 2. Lo and behold, six devices are slated for that date within the roadmap.

Devices scheduled for the 2nd include two new myTouch handsets from LG (the Maxx and Maxx Touch), the LG Flip II (a baffling dual-screen Android slider), the HTC Omega (officially known as the Radar 4G), the Huawei “Tallsome” (which looks a lot like a little 7 or 8-inch tablet), and the Samsung “Ancora” (likely a mid-range to low-end Galaxy device).

Last but certainly not least, November 9 should bring us face-to-face with the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the BlackBerry Torch (codenamed “Dumoine”).

Since the roadmap cuts off at November 9, we wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty more out of T-Mo in the latter half of November and early December. Especially since the carrier made such a fuss over holiday sales when taking Samsung’s side in its infamous battle with Apple.


Company: T-Mobile
Website: t-mobile.com
IPO: DT

T-Mobile is a mobile telephone operator headquartered in Bonn, Germany. It is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. T-Mobile has 101 million subscribers making it the worlds sixth largest mobile phone service provider globally.

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Eucalyptus Systems, Nebula and Virtual Bridges Join Linux Foundation

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT

linux-foundation

The Linux Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux, is adding three new companies to its membership list: Eucalyptus Systems, Nebula and Virtual Bridges. These companies “are important additions to The Linux Foundation membership,” according to The Linux Foundation’s vice president of marketing and developer programs Amanda McPherson. “The enterprise IT environment is growing more complex and Linux is helping users and vendors innovate within it. We are excited to collaborate with these companies to advance that work.”

Eucalyptus Systems — lead by Marten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL AB — provides self-hosted Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds using commodity Linux servers. Mickos was one of the keynote speakers at the 2011 LinuxCon North America, where he observed that we, the Linux community, must strive to ensure that no one closes that which we have opened. Clearly his company’s involvement with the Linux Foundation is an effort to put his money where his mouth is. “Open source has gone from disrupting the old to innovating the new — and Linux and open source hypervisors form the main building blocks of the cloud,” said Mickos. “As pioneers of infrastructure-as-a-service software, Eucalyptus’ membership in The Linux Foundation will keep us close to technology development that is vital for the advancement of new innovations in cloud computing.”

Nebula is developing a Linux-based hardware appliance for large private cloud computing infrastructures; and Virtual Bridges provide a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solution.

As more and more companies strive to develop “cloud” solutions, it’s clear that Linux and free software provide the best building blocks, as Mickos observed. A neutral arbiter like the Linux Foundation is an important element in the longevity of Linux. I’d expect to see even more companies pledging support to Linux and the Linux Foundation in the not-too-distant future.



TechStars Grad ReportGrid Raises $750K Seed Round

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 07:18 AM PDT

ReportGrid-logo2

ReportGrid, a recent graduate form the 2011 TechStars Boulder class has just raised a seed round in the amount of $750,000. The company, a data analytics as a service offering, is notable for powering its API for analytics and reporting through a cloud-scalable database and visualization engine.

Principal investors in the round included Launch Capital, David Cohen, Walt Winshall, Doug Derwin, and Ed Roman.

The service is designed to be a turnkey, hosted alternative to building and maintaining home-grown analytics solutions, like those that run on top of open source technologies like Hadoop.

The “magic” to ReportGrid’s offering is in the simplicity of the API it provides, which is RESTful and supports JSON. (ProgrammableWeb did a deep dive into the API back in May if you’re interested in learning more.) The API also plugs into a SaaS vendor’s product, allowing visualizations and analytics to become part of their product’s offering to customers.

Currently, ReportGrid is powering analytics for a range of customers, including SnapEngage and Fidatto.

Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, ReportGrid’s advisors include Jim Franklin (SendGrid), Ari Newman (Jive Software), Bill Boebel (Rackspace), and Doug Derwin (Taylor & Company IP Law).



Photo-Sharing App LiveShare Adds News Feed, Local Groups

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:56 AM PDT

liveShare_graphic_mobile

Cooliris’ photo-sharing app LiveShare is all-new today, with two major additions: a Facebook-like News Feed and enhanced geolocation features that let you share photos with others in your same vicinity. The latter feature, seemingly reminiscent of the failed location-based photo-sharing app from Color, is different in that it doesn’t just work on mobile – it works in a Web browser, too.

For those unfamiliar with LiveShare (not surprising, given the crowded photo-sharing space), it’s trying differentiate itself by being an app you can choose to use, but that doesn’t require everyone else in your network to use in order to be effective. It’s a photo-sharing tool, in other words, but doesn’t necessarily have to be your photo-sharing social network.

This, frankly, has been one of LiveShare’s best qualities. There are far too many apps that require a “network effect” to function properly. It’s a breath of fresh air to find one where that’s just an added bonus.

When you post photos in LiveShare, to either a public or private group, you can share those pics out via email or SMS or cross-post them to Facebook and Twitter.

It also offers dynamically generated suggestions of folks to add to a group’s list during its creation, including those who you only share with over email or text messaging, for example. Coming soon, if a friend replies via SMS or email, that message will be added to the LiveShare group, too, making it a one-stop shop for everything that’s going on with your photos.

Today’s addition of the News Feed inches LiveShare back into “photo social networking” territory, however, bringing the focus back to the in-app groups. Like Facebook’s News Feed, you can comment on the posts and those comments are syndicated back to Facebook. Unfortunately, LiveShare says that comments on Facebook won’t be synced back to the in-app group. There’s a reason for this (they claim it would be “too confusing”), but from my perspective, it feels like a mistake. After all, in every other capacity, LiveShare is helping to centralize the photo-sharing experience.

The other new feature, location-based public groups, lets anyone contribute to a photo collection, and works especially well for real-time events, like parties, weddings, or nights out on the town. For those who don’t have the app, they can email in photos to a main address instead or post online. Photos are then available for later viewing both in the app and on the Web.

The new LiveShare app goes live on both Android and iPhone today, at 10 AM EST.


Company: Cooliris
Website: cooliris.com
Funding: $28.1M

Cooliris was founded in January 2006 with a simple mantra: “Think beyond the browser”. The company creates products that transform the browsing experience across screens, making discovering and enjoying media more exciting, efficient, and personal. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Cooliris is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures, The Westly Group, and T-Venture. For more information, please visit www.cooliris.com.

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Keek Lands $5.5 Million In Funding For Its ‘Microvideo’ Platform

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:38 AM PDT

keek

Keek, a Toronto-based startup, has secured $5.5 million in financing from a consortium of investors led by AlphaNorth Asset Management and Plazacorp Ventures, with merchant bank PowerOne Capital Markets acting as agents.

Keek essentially wants to become the Twitter for video-based status updates, a free social networking platform where users go to post, share and interact with ‘microvideos’.

Keek lets people post video updates via webcam or mobile apps. The service is integrated with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to enable swift and easy sharing of video messages.

A Keek video can run up to 36 seconds in length.

Perhaps the time is right now, but it’s clear that the few microvideo startups that have sprung up over the years have struggled to make waves.

I remember when Seesmic tried to become the Twitter of video before they mothballed that idea and moved on to other things (a couple of times over), and 12seconds was also forced to call it quits after a few year of operations.

Another one that launched recently is Tout, by the way.

It’s safe to say Keek and Tout will have a challenging time succeeding where Seesmic and 12seconds have faltered, but then again when was building a business every easy?



NuCaptcha Brings User-Friendly Captchas To Mobile Phones And Tablets

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

NC

NuCaptcha, a startup that develops a ‘human-friendly’ video captcha technology, is announcing a dedicated captcha produt for mobile devices, available for all mobile platforms including Android and IOS platforms.

For background, captchas are security questions you find on Web sites that require you to decipher and type words or numbers and detects whether the user is a human or a spambot. Most Captchas you see are transcription, text-based Captchas. Of course, captchas can often be confusing, and not user-friendly. NuCaptcha is trying to solve this pain point by offering site owners a more user-friendly alternative, called a video captcha.

NuCaptcha has spent the last few years optimizing its security so that 3 un-distorted letters can be used on “most” sites. Sites that need more security can add up to 8 letters if threats are detected through The NuCaptcha Behavior Analysis System.

The mobile version of NuCaptcha includes the same simplicity as the web version. But the new optimized mobile Captchas provides a consistent user experience on multiple devices. For example, when a user clicks on a mobile touch screen to solve a Captcha, it will fit perfectly into the space left by the keyboard so that the Captcha can be quickly and easily completed. NuCaptcha does not require Flash or JavaScript; and the company expects to release the HTML5 mobile version of its Captcha technology in early Q4 2011.

Currently serving millions of Captchas per month, NuCaptcha offers a Free, Pro and Enterprise offering, and users can determine the size, choice of videos, security level, and even optional branding, advertising and revenue generation through NuCaptcha's Advertising Programs.

NuCaptcha faces competition from ReCaptcha, which Google acquired in 2009.


Company: NuCaptcha
Website: nucaptcha.com
Launch Date: January 2, 2008

NuCaptcha introduces video technology to text-based Captchas. The NuCaptcha Security Platform is a CAPTCHA-based solution that uses motion video to authenticate human web interactions. Features of the NuCaptcha Security Platform are: Generates new revenue - Web publishers can now generate significant revenue from a previously un-monetized space. Displays in video format - Video technology has the dual benefit of making it more difficult for software to attack while simultaneously making it easier for humans to read. Has stronger security features - A...

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Bringing Punch Cards Online, Perka Launches A Nifty Loyalty Platform For Small Businesses

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 2.48.34 AM

Perka, a startup coming out of stealth and launching into the public today, wants to offer merchants a new spin on loyalty rewards programs in an effort to become the “antidote” to the 300-plus daily deal sites out there cannibalizing each other’s revenues and user bases. Perka is essentially bringing those “buy 10, get 1 free” punch cards we know and love online — and to our mobile devices.

And, rather than just being another consumer-facing loyalty offering, the startup is looking to flip the deck and instead go after small, local businesses, as it looks to enable these merchants to effectively compete with the sophisticated loyalty programs of multibillion dollar companies like Starbucks and American Airlines, to name a few notable loyalty players. With Groupon, LivingSocial and the daily deals model, merchants are already offering a product or a service for less, but Perka wants to put a device in a merchant’s local store, providing an app for both customers and merchants to allows merchants to easily track purchases, and get to know and reward their loyal customers.

On the other side, consumers get the benefit of being able to easily checkin to Perka on their mobile device from the store, or via SMS from any phone, to earn stamps in pursuit of rewards. Perka is hoping that by offering a simple solution and working individually, face-to-face with small local businesses, they will be able to convince merchants that Perka offers a better way to get at that much-coveted retention — to keep customers coming back.

Through Perka, merchants can decide what they want to give away, how much, and how many checkins (or stamps) it will take for customers to receive rewards. When a customer comes into a store and checks in via their iPhone or Android app, using their Perka-enabled device (at this point an iPod Touch), merchants can see who their customers are, and that they are, say, $2.50 away from the $25 goal. The merchant can address the customer by name and tell them that with another small purchase they can get a free coffee or a coupon for a free massage.

For merchants, Perka will cost $85 by way of a monthly subscription, which includes the addition of a Perka iPod at their cash register to validate customer purchases. Transactions are recorded in a centralized database, and a single registration allows members to participate in any Perka merchant program.

The startup also will work with individual businesses to tailor their loyalty program to whatever suits their current needs, whether that’s to encourage repeat visits, improve sales of a particular product, or increase transactions. Merchants can run multiple programs through Perka, and include rewards for multiple products or services at once. What’s more, local businesses can sign up for free consultation with the Perka team to see if the service is right for them and how to best meet their goals, as well as apply for "Perka Pros" — on-site account managers who consult with merchant owners and managers, provide in-store marketing materials, design custom incentive programs and monitor results.

Perka is launching its service in Seattle, where the startup is based, to begin with and has already partnered with 30 partners in the Seattle area. Over the next year, Perka’s team of 16 will roll out its services in another 20 cities and regions across the country.

The startup is co-founded by Alan Chung, Rob Coury and Rob Bethge, all three serial entrepreneurs who count six exits between them ranging from $25 million to $1.5 billion, with buyers including Facebook (Zenbe), Aol, Sun Microsystems, and TD Ameritrade.

The startup is currently bootstrapping, but has also recently begun talks on Sand Hill Road for its first round of venture investment, Chung told TechCrunch.

The key value proposition here for Perka, in the long term, is its centralized database that tracks real customer purchases. Currently, there are many consumer web companies collective massive amounts of data on consumer activity, checkins, purchases, spending trends, and so on, but few companies have been able to easily tap into the actual real world, offline buying habits of average people at small, local merchants. This data can become an invaluable resource for local businesses looking to get to know their consumers better — just as it can be a highly leverage-able asset for Perka.

For the startup to succeed, it’s all about providing a seamless setup and onboarding process for local merchants. From what I’ve seen, the process is just that. And because Perka only requires a few merchants to adopt the service (and sign up their own customers) to be able to create a useful network for local customers and participating merchants, it may just have a leg up on other services targeting local merchants, like Foursquare. And, hey, ePunchcard company Punchd was recently acquired by Google for $10 million.

In terms of the mountain a loyalty program-focused startup has to climb, sure, only 12 to 15 percent of customers are loyal to a single retailer. But then again, that relatively small percentage of customers drives 55 to 75 percent of sales, according to Chung, so by reducing customer attrition by just 5 percent, a company can improve its bottom line significantly. Increasing that customer loyalty by just 1 percent equivalent to reducing costs by 10 percent, he said — something that will surely be of interest to local business owners.

For more on Perka, check them out at home here or on the App Store here.



CEATEC 2011: Rohm Unveils World’s Smallest Resistors

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:29 AM PDT

rohm

I admit I just walked by microchip maker Rohm‘s booth at this year’s CEATEC 2011, but the Japanese company actually showcased something very interesting: it developed the world’s smallest chip resistor [JP], which, at just 0.3 x 0.15mm, is a whopping 44% smaller than the previous model.

Rohm’s pitch at CEATEC is that 500,000 of the new resistors could be used in an hourglass (instead of sand).

In fact, the company says the devices are too small to be processed with equipment that’s currently available: Japanese business daily The Nikkei is reporting that Rohm is currently looking for partners that could help develop technology to actually mount the resistor on a circuit board.

Smartphones, for example, use up to 400 chip resistors, which means the smaller resistors get, the thinner and lighter handsets could theoretically become in the future.

Rohm is currently planning to start mass-producing the resistors in fall 2012.



CEATEC 2011: Nissan Showcases “Smart House Of The Future”

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:44 AM PDT

nissan

Next-generation homes are definitely one of the big trends at the CEATEC 2011 exhibition that currently takes place in Chiba, Japan. We have covered multiple “smart home” concepts from various Japan companies over the last years, and at CEATEC, Nissan’s so-called NSH-2012 Smart House of the Future is stealing the show.

It’s not a typical home but rather a simple house that’s specifically designed for post-disaster situations. The core element is a stand-alone energy system that combines the so-called “LEAF to Home charging system” (see below) with solar and fuel cells.

Nissan says that this system isn’t affected by weather and could run via batteries installed in an electric vehicle is power is cut off following a disaster. According to the company, the LEAF’s 24 kWh battery pack, for example, provides two full days of power for the house.

And to be completely safe, Nissan also built a “next-generation mobile communications” system into the NSH-2012. It allows you to track energy consumption of individual devices inside the house with a special augmented reality application and to keep communicating with the outside world with your tablet or smartphone.



Pops Is Android Notifications On Steroids – Get Ready To Love To Hate

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:16 AM PDT

Pops

Humanity has poor taste. Correction: The worst. For proof, look no further than the person sitting next to you … That’s right, wait until their phone rings and blasts the latest Shakira mega-hit (Full respect to bf Gerard Piqué. Visca Barça!).

Coupled with humanity’s bad taste, is humanity’s uncountable urge to spend money on said bad taste, and in the case here, booty-shakin’, Colombian-sung god-awful ringtones.

Waka Waka indeed.

Thing is, and here’s a little gem they don’t teach you at business school: where there is bad taste, there is money.

Usually, a bunch of it.

See, the ringtone business has for years been a cash cow for mobile operators and the cellular ecosystem, but as with everything smartphone, ringtones have to smarten up as well.

A new Israeli-based startup called Pops sees new smartened-up tones for Android notifications as a commercial opportunity and is launching a landgrab for users’ lock screens.

Pops, which comes in packages, are installed via an Android app. They basically let users customize their email, SMS, Facebook, and Twitter notifications, as well as their ringtones. Packages include sounds effects and music, as well as visuals such as videos and animations. Check out the video at the bottom of the post to see what they look like.

Pops is featuring only free content right now (yes, I view Pops packages as ‘content’ as opposed to plain old ‘tones’), but for-pay material is sure to be introduced soon enough.

My jabs aside, Pops is actually a nifty app that will surely put a bunch of smiles on lots of people’s faces. Of course, their friends will chuckle the first couple of times, then move swiftly to the ‘If I hear Waka Waka one more god-damn time, I’m going to lodge this ashtray in your left eye socket!’ stage. Friendship is priceless.





Just-Eat Acquires Online Food Delivery Provider Urbanbite

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 03:48 AM PDT

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Fast-growing online takeaway service provider Just-Eat this morning announced that it has acquired Urbanbite, a London online food delivery company. The purchase marks Just-Eat’s entry into the corporate business.

Just-Eat is taking full ownership over Urbanbite, and the latter’s founder Ben Carmona will remain with the company in an undefined ‘leadership role’.



You Have 3 Days Left To Enter #TheEuropas Before Voting Starts

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 03:24 AM PDT

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The Europas, the European Tech Startup Awards supported by TechCrunch Europe, will be on November 17 in London. 450 of Europe’s top startups, VCs and entrepreneurs will celebrate the European startup scene with 20 awards after taking hundreds of entries, sifting with an advisory board, putting the finalists to a public vote by the industry and merging the results.

You can still buy tickets, follow the event on Twitter @TheEuropas and on Facebook. But you only have three days left (Friday 7 October is the deadline) to enter yourself or your startup. Here’s how.



Daily Crunch: Escape Vessel

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 01:00 AM PDT

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