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The Internet of Things calls for caution

By LezingenNo Comments

During the Internet of Things congress in the Mercure hotel in Amsterdam, Danny Mekić (NewTeam partner and technology expert) talked with Marino Strik from NXP Semiconductors and Leo van der Putten from Clickey about the pros and cons of connecting everyday objects to the internet. The increasing level of technological connectivity makes it an important question whether we’re still in control of our own lives. Danny Mekić set the tone by stating that the smarter the technology is that we surround ourselves with, the dumber we become ourselves.

Moreover, as it turns out, the intentions of the various parties that control the chips in our Internet of Things devices are often unclear, as are those of the companies that gather data from things like driverless cars or our healthcare records. Is it a good idea to let major, quoted American companies run off with that much information? Danny Mekić thinks the government has a role to play in this. In his opinion, the government should take a step back from developments like these by minimising restrictions on new technologies, while maximising safeguards for citizens’ constitutional rights.

He also warns that it’s important that the government should require the private big names of the technological landscape to be transparent in their usage of collected data. The ability of the individual to choose whether or not to be included in their digital databases is essential for making sure we don’t become slaves to technology. He also argues for mandatory warnings whenever there are algorithms at work, such as the ones creating personalised online search results for you or the ones on holiday booking sites that charge more to some customers than others. It isn’t nearly always clear to users that they might be discriminated against on the basis of their profile.

In other words: even though the future offers an incredible range of innovative, beneficial opportunities, it’s important to keep a cautious eye on these developments as well, says Danny Mekić.

‘Don’t get online just because your neighbour is’

By News from our own kitchenNo Comments

Whoever wants to be an online entrepreneur should first make sure they have a very specific goal.

No matter how enthusiastic internet consultant and online entrepreneur Danny Mekić may be about online entrepreneurship, companies shouldn’t expect results too quickly.

Some entrepreneurs become active on the internet just because their competitors are too. “That’s making a tool into an end in itself. You won’t be successful that way,” he says.

An entrepreneur should be very clear in advance on what they hope to achieve with their website, their advertisement campaign or their company page on a social network site.

Social network sites can be useful for answering questions, finding potential customers and understanding their needs, among other things.

A suitable medium
Once its goals are clear, it also becomes easier for a company to decide what medium is suitable for its message. “What medium you should use entirely depends on your goals and your target audience,” he explains. Pinterest for example is very interesting to fashion companies, having a 72% female user base.
Nonetheless, entrepreneurs shouldn’t have too much of a pigeonhole mindset. It’s a major misconception that only young potential customers would use the internet from tablets and smartphones.

The fastest-growing group of mobile internet users is that of people between 65 and 75. “And there aren’t many service providers yet who cater to them.” Considering how rapidly this group is growing, he thinks this could be a major opportunity for companies.

Entrepreneurs should be careful about what happens to their data. And that’s not just a matter of digital security. If a company creates a customer network on Facebook, for example, those data will not belong to the company itself. If Facebook would close down, companies like that would lose their valuable information.

Danny Mekić thinks it would be wise not to become dependent on just one service. “Because they are popping up one after the other more rapidly than ever.”
It would be a better idea to get to know the main niche websites on your particular subject. “Invest one afternoon into finding those pages, and ask them to link to you.” That would give your page more specifically interested visitors.

Every day
In order to be successful online, an entrepreneur should work on that every day. And that’s a matter of trying things. He advises entrepreneurs to do ‘A/B tests’. A company can create two versions of a website, an advertisement or an order button, and test which one does best.

And the budget doesn’t have to be an issue if competitors join forces to set up a joint online advertisement campaign for their field. Not to mention that many services are available for free. “Don’t be too quick to pay for something,” Mekić advises.

The best example of an online entrepreneur might actually be Danny Mekić himself. He goes around with a battery that can feed his laptop and smartphone for 30 hours, he has an online signature and he hires a postal service to print and post physical letters for him. “I actually don’t really have an office myself,” he admits with a chuckle.

(source: dannymekic.comNu Zakelijk)

Big Data and the Lonely Wolf

By Columns @enNo Comments

It has become more valuable than ever to gather data yourself as an organisation. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, search engines and other easy-to-search databases on the internet have been making more and more information publicly available: your competitors and the guy next door can see it too. So in order to have a competitive advantage, you’ll need more than what you can get from publicly available information.

Secondly, exactly because more and more information is becoming publicly available on the internet, the information you find there is becoming generally less and less relevant. The magnitude of the internet grows by 100% every year. Not seeing the forest for the trees or looking for a needle in a hay stack is putting it mildly.

When it comes to data, the only way to attain a distinct and relevant position is by handling it yourself: gathering it, analysing it and making it relevant for your organisation. Look at the renowned big names of Silicon Valley: Google, Facebook, Instagram. These companies are revered, all because of their position in the world of online information, and the money made from it. But the offline world too is becoming more and more searchable.

Last Monday was national iSPEX day in the Netherlands, during which 5000 Dutch iPhone users used their smartphones with high-precision global positioning – to measure harmful dust particles in the air. Similar devices are in development for testing the safety of drinking water, but also to tell if a piece of meat in your supermarket really is organic. The Trading Standards Institute could become redundant within a week in that regard.

How are the major companies doing when it comes to information gathering? Not very well, I have to conclude every time I’m on the phone with a call centre. “Can you tell me your customer ID, sir?” – while I’m sure I’m calling them from the cellphone number that’s in their database. For that matter, I’d rather not be addressed as ‘sir’ as a 26 year old either, considering I had to fill in my birth date when setting up my contract. And let’s not even think about companies like that having their act together with modern possibilities for gathering data from outside the company.

Unfortunately, in the large companies it’s often one lonely wolf who’s in charge of handling big data, getting co-workers to share “their” data, and finding a way to make the information searchable and relevant. And within organisations that are actually very advanced in the area of gathering data, it’s also lonely wolves who have to remind everyone of the limitations set by privacy laws.

Unfortunately, one lonely wolf won’t change the world. Unless his name is Edward Snowden.

This column is written by NewTeam-partner Danny Mekic’ on request of the Dutch Radio 1.